Top Wrestlers of the 2000's

By Andrew Hipps

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (May 21) -- The 2000's was a memorable era in wrestling that saw historic performances, major breakthroughs in the sport and new wrestling stars emerge.

The decade was ushered in by one of the greatest Olympic upsets of all time. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Rulon GARDNER (USA) stunned three-time Olympic champion Aleksander KARELIN (RUS), 1-0, in the gold-medal match at 130kg in Greco-Roman.

Arguably the most significant moment of the decade for the sport came four years later when women's wrestling was added to the Olympic program in 2004, with four weight categories contested. Women's wrestling power Japan captured two gold medals, one silver and one bronze at the 2004 Olympics. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, saw a change in the medal distribution, with two bronze medals awarded in each weight category.

Let's look at some of the top wrestlers of the 2000's.

Buvaisar SAITIEV (RUS)

Buvaisar SAITIEV (RUS) possessed a combination of technique, strength, finesse and flexibility that helped make him one of wrestling's all-time greats. Saitiev won three Olympic gold medals, with his first and last separated by 12 years. His first Olympic title came at the age of 21 in Atlanta. He went on to win Olympic gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics. In addition, Saitiev earned six world titles, with three coming during the 2000's.


Saori YOSHIDA (JPN) reached legendary status in women's wrestling during the 2000's after an undefeated run in major championships between 2002 and 2016. Her incredible run included three Olympic gold medals and 13 world titles. After cruising to world championships in 2002 and 2003, Yoshida won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, the first Olympics in which women's wrestling was contested. She would go on to win Olympic gold medals win Beijing (2008) and London (2012), while racking up 11 straight world titles from 2005 to 2015. In 2016, Yoshida won her fourth Olympic medal when she claimed a silver in Rio.

Khadzhimurat GATSALOV (RUS)

In 2004, Khadzhimurat GATSALOV (RUS) became an Olympic champion in freestyle wrestling at the age of 21. Gatsalov would go on to win world titles at 96kg in each of the next four world championships. He would add a fifth world title in 2013 at 120kg, along with silver (2010) and bronze (2014) medals. Gatsalov also won three European titles during the 2000's.


Mavlet BATIROV (RUS) was one of the world's top lightweights during the 2000's. Batirov won back-to-back Olympic titles in 2004 and 2008 at 55kg and 60kg respectively. In 2007, Batirov claimed a gold medal at the European Championships before winning a world title. He also has a world bronze medal on his wrestling resume, which he won in 2006.


Armen NAZARYAN (ARM/BUL), who competed for both Armenia and Bulgaria, is one of the most decorated freestyle wrestlers of the 2000's. After winning an Olympic gold medal and three world bronze medals in the 1990's, Nazaryan added to his legacy in the 2000's. He repeated as Olympic champion at the Sydney Games in 2000. From 2002 to 2005, Nazaryan won three world titles along with a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. He also won six European titles. Nazaryan was inducted into the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007